Susan Freinkel’s Plastics Perspective: Use Them Wisely

Plastic Clothes Pegs

An op-ed piece in The New York Times by author Susan Freinkel puts a much-needed perspective on plastics. Plastics have been getting a bum rap these days, becoming synonymous with BPA-leaching baby bottles and bags choking up our waterways.

Plastics do much good for society as well. Think of the disposable syringe the nurse uses for your annual flu shot. Or your laptop computer whose almighty electronic guts are encased in lightweight plastic. Plastics have a lot to offer as long as we use our common sense and adopt them for applications where there aren’t any other suitable materials available.

That’s the message Freinkel has. A San Francisco Bay Area science writer who has a book coming out next month called Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, Freinkel says in her NYT piece,

In a world of nearly seven billion souls and counting, we are not going to feed, clothe and house ourselves solely from wood, ore and stone; we need plastics. And in an era when we’re concerned about our carbon footprint, we can appreciate that lightweight plastics take less energy to produce and transport than many other materials. Plastics also make possible green technology like solar panels and lighter cars and planes that burn less fuel. These “unnatural” synthetics, intelligently deployed, could turn out be nature’s best ally.

Source: “Plastic: Too Good to Throw Away,” The New York Times, 03/17/11
Source: “NYT Op-Ed Gives A Shout Out To Plastics,” CENtral Science‘s The Chemical Notebook, 03/18/11
Image by Emilian Robert Vicol / Public Domain Photos, used under its Creative Commons license.

Rajendrani "Raj" Mukhopadhyay is a science writer and editor who contributes news stories and feature articles on scientific advances to a variety of magazines. Raj holds Ph.D. in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University.